THE FIRST ANGEL 11
By Ed Crane
We sat in our puffy chairs facing each other across the antique table sampling the whisky. The silence felt awkward after our intense verbal intercourse. Lilly smiled almost in a shy way. I guess I reciprocated not knowing what to say. Glancing around the room my eyes fell on a picture of a large modern city set on an island with a range of snow-capped mountains beyond the blue water.
‘Vancouver. I was born there. That was taken thirty years ago, it’s a mess now.’
‘Like everywhere these days’
‘I don’t remember it very well. We moved a lot. Dad was military. CIA.’
'And you moved down south?'
Lilly chuckled. ‘Well ah declare y’all real smart Prow-fessor. Yes, I was a Georgia peach for a while. The dialect is hard to get out your head. I was also a California dime, and a girl from a half dozen other states.’
‘More exotic than being raised in Crawley, East Sussex.’
‘Such an English thing to say. You shouldn’t put your beautiful island down. Being in a military family wasn’t a lot of fun.’
‘CIA? Is that how you got into this?’
She shot a glance at the ceiling and smiled. Clinking her glass against mine she emptied it and added another inch to mine.
‘I have a lot to do now.’
One question too many. I thought.
‘When you finish that go back to your room and call Marge. Get some rest – busy day tomorrow.’
‘Marge is a psychologist, she’ll guess something’s up.’
‘If you don’t call, she’ll know. Just be fucking careful.’
Walking over to the “bedroom” Lila stopped at the door and treated me to a friendly smile.
‘Take your time with the malt. It’s too good to slug down. I think you know the way out.’
Feeling light headed partly from the whisky, but mostly from our conversations I trudged back to the hotel. It started to snow heavily. The lack of light made the going difficult. The worst winter in over twenty years. Global temperatures fell well below the old 2030 target. More due the one-billion-plus fall in World population than the move from carbon fuels.
As I entered the hotel lobby Dietmar buttonholed me.
‘How did it go with Lila? I suppose you need a drink?’ He laughed, but he looked nervous.
‘Not really, Dietmar. I’m already half drunk,’ I said trying to find a way to avoid hinting at what I’d heard. ‘She doesn’t seem to know what small measures are.’
‘Damn sure she doesn’t. What did she want?
‘She just wanted to hear how it was looking after Sally . . . sort of quizzed me.’
‘Sounds like her.’
He didn’t look convinced.
‘We can have a beer if you want, but I’d rather go and lay down for a while.’
‘I understand. She can be really in-your-face. We have a meeting tomorrow at the Euresco cottage. Have breakfast with me around eight-thirty. I’ll take you over.’
The call to Marge was short. Everything fine with Sally. She was responding well to Marge’s lessons. I explained I’d had a long day and finished it with a few drinks with Dietmar. She sent her regards to him in German. I said I’d pass it on as best I could. I fell asleep almost immediately I finished the call.
At 7.15am the hotel phone buzzed. Barely awake I listened to Lila telling me to unlock my door.
‘I’m in bed.’
‘Okay well get up and unlock the door.’
‘I’m not dressed,’
‘Get out of bed, put something on and unlock the door. I’ll be there in five minutes.’
After dragging myself from under the delicious duvet I found a hotel bathrobe and a pair of baggy jogging trousers. I rinsed yesterday from my mouth. Lila slipped in exactly five minutes later. She looked at my clothing.
I wasn’t of course, but neither was she dressed in a blue military style jumpsuit. Her hair swept back into a loose ponytail. No make-up except for a wisp of mascara. I hardly recognised her.
‘You going on a mission?’
‘Don’t be funny. I’ve been up half the night. I nearly froze to death getting over here at 5am. We have a problem.’
‘You lost Brenda?’
‘No. . . . No, she’s safe in—‘
‘Not important. It’s Sally. We think someone might try to snatch her. The same people who wanted Brenda. That’s why we grabbed her. The security over there was . . . “ordinary,”’
‘But it’s like fort Knox where Sally is.’
‘Slight exaggeration there, Jonny. My people want to move her. You need to know now so we don’t have a fight over it in the meeting.’
‘We can have a fight right now if you want.’
‘Cool it. You’ll wake everybody up.’
‘We will discuss it, but not at the meeting. If it gets raised be cool. Okay? I’m telling you so you don’t get side-tracked.’
‘I’m not sure about this.’
‘I know how much Sally means to you,’ Lila took my hand in of both of hers. ‘She’s important to all of us. Just remember that.’
‘Yeah, of course.’
‘I contacted that Julian double-barrel. He’ll arrange extra security until our guys get on site.’
‘Julian? That wet . . .’
‘Yes I know he’s an a.r.s.e. but he knows his way around.’
I couldn’t help a smile.
‘Marge and Sally are vulnerable out there in that cute little cottage. You must understand that.’
‘I suppose you have a point, but what about my team.’
‘Just focus on Sally’s safety. . . . Is this the bathroom?’
I nodded. She blew me a kiss and pushed open the door.
‘Can you fix me a coffee? I’m dying here.’
The coffee was ready by the time she come out the loo. She crossed to the machine and drank it down in one shot.
‘Don’t want to rush you, but I’m meeting Dietmar for breakfast at eight-thirty.’
‘Sure you do. It’s okay I need to go, I have to re-make myself for the meeting.’
‘You look pretty good.’
‘Remind me to test your eyesight sometime.’
Alone, I made a coffee for myself and fretted.